Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gone Hiking

Friday, Grace was determined to get her money from the train pass that she bought for the Jungfrau region.  So once again, down into the valley from our side and up the other side to Wengen.  From there we took a lift from Wengen up to Mannlichen.  Here is a map of the area to give you some context.

Once on top of Mannlichen, we hiked to the top of the "peak" called a gipfel.  This was a climb from 7,306 feet to 7,677 feet in maybe a half of a mile?  It was pretty steep.  The weather was variable with sunshine as well as fog blowing up out of the valleys every few minutes.  
Heidi, coming through the fog.  At last we've found her.  Grandfather must have bought her sunglasses and a camera but they didn't put that in the book.
I stall for time to catch my breath by taking pictures of wild flowers.
Bob started to take a panoramic view, but the clouds were moving too rapidly to make it worthwhile.  
On our way back down from the top, we encountered a young woman setting up to paraglide into the valley.  We stopped to watch as she carefully unpacked her sail and laid it out on the hillside above her.  She kept straightening out her lines as she attached them to her harness.  The wind was not helping her at all as it would blow up the valley towards us and then come back over the top of the crest behind us and roll her sail back down the hill like a big blue croissant.  Marcel offered to help her and she was very thankful.  We had a bit of a wait for the fog to abate and then Bob got involved with helping her with the sail and pretty soon she was running down the hillside and was off the ground.  I caught it on video, but it is way too long to imbed here.  Maybe if I figure out how to clip it.
Waiting for the uplifting moment to occur.
This was one of the highlights of the trip so far for Marcel.  That and the base jumpers that we saw on the hike to the falls yesterday.  As a brief recap of that experience, we were walking along the road next to a big open field when Bob calls out "look, base jumpers" and there in the air above us (approaching very quickly) are two of them.  They look like big flying squirrels.  They landed and then one calls out to us that another one is about to jump in a few seconds.  Sure enough the next one comes plummeting off the cliff to make a safe and graceful landing in the field.  
But, I digress.
We ate our lunch on top of Mannlichen where the "kids" play on the playground equipment close at hand.
Justin...and this bed was too scratchy.
After lunch we took another lift down into Grindelwald.    Some of these lifts are LONG.  Here are a few specs:
  • Wengen to Mannlichen: 5,436 feet in length with a 3,106 foot elevation gain with a gradient of 70.8%
  • Mannlichen to Grindelwald is a gondola cable car: just over 3.75 miles long with an elevation loss of 4,225 feet
From that station, we were told that the next gondola was a 5 minute walk.  Ok, here's the part where we learned a big lesson.  The time estimates on the little yellow direction signs are for the most part accurate.  It depends on how many times you stop to catch your breath.  Any time estimates given to you by the Swiss people should not be trusted.  Everything is 5 minutes to them.  This little mini-hike consisted of a 20 minute hike with steep elevation gain through town (carrying Bob on my back both ways).  Along the way, we had to brave the hordes of (mainly Japanese) tourists in Grindelwald.  It made us very happy to realize that where we were staying wasn't plagued with all the people that this side of the valley has. Ugh.
The gondola ride to First  (pronounced feerst) had several segments like the ride down into Grindelwald.  I can't find the specs on this lift as i did for the previous ones.  Suffice it to say that it was long and steep.  It changed direction a couple of times, each time "catching" a new cable.  
Midway up the first mountain there is a stop where you can get off and then rent a little standing scooter and ride back down the mountain.   Looked like fun, but our plan was to hike to the Backalpsee ( basically, it means alpine lake) which was described as an undulating hike, accessible with a baby stroller.  The time estimate was 50 minutes (which turned out to be accurate).
We got off the gondola at First and started off on the trail.  Undulating my backside, the damned trail went straight up!  Hayley and I almost stayed behind.  Luckily, the first part was the worst part and after that it did pretty much undulate but no way could we see anyone pushing a stroller on this trail.  Each time we hit a nasty bit, we'd snort "stroller, right".
The orange on the rocks is lichen.  Tough for anything to grow at this altitude.

 Some varmint's domicile.

 We got to the lake as the skies begin to lower to the tops of the mountains around us.  

Justin skimmed rocks in the lake and there were little black goats or sheep up the hillside with their bells tinkling in the breeze.  It would have been really pretty in the sunshine.  We dallied at the spot for 30 minutes or so and the rain drops began to fall sporadically as we set out to return.  Within 10 minutes or so, it's raining steadily and pretty soon we're in a downpour.  We all had rain jackets with hoods, except Hayley who used the umbrella that Bob had in his backpack.  However, the rain runs down the jacket and gets the pants all wet if you are wearing long pants.  If you are wearing shorts, it runs off the jacket, down the legs into your shoes.  Squoosh squoosh or squish squish, pick your sound effect. 
It took us just under 50 minutes to get back to the top of the gondola but not before we entertained thoughts of being struck by lightning.  We're all soaking wet and figured that instead of riding down together, we'd take separate cars so the we wouldn't steam the cars up so badly.
Just as we get into the gondola is when I start doing the math in my head; adding up all of the segments of time we'll need to get back to Lauterbrunnen in time to catch the last tram up to Murren.  A nagging, background worry starts to set in.  After misreading the timetables we spend a costly extra 45 minutes in Grindelwald where Bob and I seize the opportunity to run up to the co-op near the train station and buy rolls, lunch meat a pack of Camembert cheese and some cherries.  It always seems that a nice soft cheese will help what could be a dry sandwich taste yummy. Using the 3 Swiss Franc paring knife that I had bought for just such an occasion, we made some sandwiches that tasted pretty darned good.  Wish I could say the same about the cherries.
We had a 25 minute wait at our first transfer point and made it to Lauterbrunnen with about 5 minutes to spare.  If we had missed the last tram, I'm not sure where we would have spent the night since we wouldn't be able to hike it - too tired and soon to be too dark.  
All's well that ends well. A little light packing in preparation for departing the next morning and then turning in for the night.  

Total step count for today: 22,035
Today is my 20th anniversary of working at Costco (originally Price Club)

No comments:

Post a Comment